Heroes from Barnsley’s only ever team to reach the top flight are watching the Reds’ current success and hoping that the side of 2020/21 emulate them in getting to the Premier League.
Adi Moses, John Hendrie and Darren Sheridan were among the key players as Danny Wilson’s Reds gained promotion in the 1996/1997 season. Valerien Ismael’s team are currently in the play-off places with five games remaining and sparking talk of a return to the top flight after almost a quarter of a century.
Moses, who came through the Reds academy, watches all the games with his family on iFollow. He said: “I really hope Barnsley can do it.
“If it takes away the fact that we are the only team to ever get there, I am not bothered about that. Records are there to be broken. They’ve broken loads of records that we never did like six consecutive away wins.
“A couple of people have said to me: ‘they could take your crown away from you.’ But I just want them to get promoted and then take my sons, who are big Barnsley fans and season ticket holders, to see them in the Premier League next season.
“We’ve watched all the games on iFollow. We all look forward to every game and we’re just expecting them to win every time now. It’s been incredible and outstanding. It’s been a very difficult year for the town but the team has provided a lot of joy and happiness.”
Can Moses see similarities between 1997 and now?
“They seem to have a similar togetherness and team spirit to what we had.
“Both teams look like they will run through a brick wall for each other and the manager.
“We had more of a blend of youth and experience whereas this team is a lot younger.
“I suppose it would be even more of a surprise this season than when we did it because we were often in the top half of the table.
“Now there is such a huge gulf in finances in the Championship.”
Sheridan added: “We had been hovering around the top half for a few seasons and looking to get promotion, then we finally did. This team only just stayed up and now they are fighting for the Premier League – it’s been amazing.
“At this time in the season, we were high up but we just took every game as it came.
“We could smell the Premier League but we focused on getting there.
“It was nerve-racking but we got there.”
Sheridan is still playing football, returning to Sunday League in Manchester this week aged 53.
He has also been keeping an eye on Barnsley’s progress.
“I am looking at their results every week and I’ve watched a few games. It’s looking good and I hope they stay where they are.
“They seem to be working very hard for each other, which is like what we did when we got promoted.
“They are good people in Barnsley and they deserve a bit of joy, especially after a tough year with the coronavirus. I love Barnsley, they gave me my chance in football. I would love to see them in the Premier League again and, if they keep doing what they’re doing, they might get there.”
Hendrie – who scored 15 goals in the 1996/97 season – is delighted that Barnsley have the chance of a second ‘fairytale’. He said: “Recently they have been hovering around the bottom of the Championship so this has caught everyone by surprise, but a pleasant surprise. It would be a fantastic story and it would be great for the town.
“It would be another fairytale.
“The other clubs in the top six have got a hell of a lot more resources which makes it all the more incredible. In our day we didn’t have the same resources of any teams around us, but the gap is even bigger now. When I was at Barnsley, we seemed to be everyone’s second favourite team and it seems to be the same now because they are such underdogs.
“It’s just a shame the supporters are not there.
“They have had to watch a lot of relegation battles in recent years but they have not been there for this great season.
“In our day, we went out with the supporters after games and the town was jumping.”
Hendrie admits Valerien Ismael’s team play a different style to the one used by Wilson 24 years ago. He said: “We were ‘just like watching Brazil’ whereas now they play with a high press and put teams under pressure and they’ve been very successful. Teams hate playing against this Barnsley team. The way they play is great for cup tie football or play-off football.”
Moses added: “Some people moan about the style but it’s about getting results. Barnsley are not an ugly team to watch, they just play in the right areas at the right times.
“They play some lovely stuff with really good players like Alex Mowatt, Cauley Woodrow and the two wing-backs. I remember last season watching Mads Andersen getting the ball in the six-yard box off the ‘keeper and every fan was saying: ‘what’s he doing?’ But this season him and (Michal) Helik have been unbelievable.
“Andersen looked a nervous wreck when he first arrived and his confidence got knocked a lot but he’s shown incredible character to turn it around.”
Hendrie believes the Reds’ 1-0 home loss to Chelsea in the FA Cup in February was a turning point. He said: “They gave Chelsea more problems than teams in the Premier League.
“After that game, it was as if the players thought: ‘hang on a minute, we’re better than we’re showing in the Championship.’ Then they went on a magnificent run.
“The top two are out of sight but it’s any four from the next five who will get in the play-offs. Barnsley’s fixtures are all winnable, including Norwich on the last day because they knocked them out of the FA Cup. They won’t get a better chance to make the play-offs.”